Ordinary Deaths

My kids got an up close taste of death yesterday.

It’s not like they didn’t know it existed before this.  We’d seen the lifeless body of a woman floating face down in the river in Nepal once.  We’d watched bodies on biers move past us on their way to funeral pyres in India.  We’d passed dog carcasses wearing blankets of flies, the smell of them slapping us in the face as we walked to a friend’s flat.

And in the US we’ve been to funerals, stared into open caskets at faces that don’t look asleep.

We’ve had to peel our beloved dog off the road and bury her before her time.

But yesterday was different.  It was a shock and, though it’s something that happens every day in the world, it reminds us that we aren’t home yet.

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Our air conditioning has been broken for three days.  We’re reminded of how we used to live with the weather much more closely when we lived abroad.  Last night felt a little something like this.

A Different Story (from the ones you’ve probably heard)

I love spending time with people who travel the world–or people who come from other places and have traveled to the U.S. where, happily, our paths have crossed and ended  in a meal or a long cup of coffee.  Hearing their stories, flipping through their pictures, and comparing notes of my own travels, enlarges my view of the world and helps me gain perspective.

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Specifically, talking to people who go other places reminds me that the world is enormous and that there are a billion, ordinary, life-changing events unfolding on every continent everyday, even as I brush my teeth in the morning.  I may not know what each one is, but being aware that I am small in this vast universe, that my joys and sorrows are coinciding with myriad others across the globe, helps me to disengage from my toxic tendency to navel-gaze.

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And it helps me to reject the ubiquitous, Hunger Games media frenzy in our culture.

Because, again, my traveling friends remind me that many important things are happening all the time, and no one is reporting them.

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It’s life-affirming to remember this.

Just because the Internet screams at me, demanding that I watch the dickie-bird and react, doesn’t mean that it’s telling me the truth.  By that, I mean, the whole truth, the larger truth of life.

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My friends remind me, and I feel relief.

I think to myself, I am small, thank God, and there’s more to this story of the world.

When Things (Don’t) Fall Apart

After nearly three weeks away (first out of the country, then out of my state), I’m back home.  The first thing I did when I came through the door yesterday was to pet the dogs –I hesitate to admit how much I missed them–and to sniff the air.  Our house smelled stale, like mold, kind-of.  But the friend who cared for our two dogs and Russian tortoise while we were away had cleaned the place, bless her, and changed the sheets. She was even trying to prepare chicken for us before we stopped her.  It definitely wasn’t her causing the smell.

I’m always anxious right up to the time I catch a plane somewhere.  Not-so-deep-down, I believe that if I don’t prepare for every domestic eventuality, heading off each maybe with typed lists and Martha Stewart efficiency, things will go horribly wrong while I’m away, and I’ll pay for them in the end.  Every, single time I leave.

But, so far, things have been OK when I’ve returned.  Sometimes even better than OK.  I know that God is teaching me how to trust him, one tarmac at a time, though I’m in the slow group when it comes to these kinds of lessons.

Because, in the end, there is so much that is out of my hands.  I (purposely) forget that as queen of my little domain.  It’s only when I leave that I’m reminded how fragile, how miraculous, the everyday workings of life really are.  So then it’s pure, blinky-eyed luxury to walk back through the door and find that my home world kept turning without my managing it, even if the air is slightly funky.

I’m tucking these travel revelations away to chew on later, and, like some desert animal, I’ll call them up when I need them again.

But I plan to set off one of those mold bombs, too, just in case.

On My Way Out…

I’m off to Africa with my husband.  I still have approximately ten thousand things to do before I go and, naturally, only about half a day’s time to accomplish them.  So why am I sitting at the computer?  Because I won’t have it in front of me for a longish time, and like my morning chocolate coconut Luna bars, I’ll miss it.

“See” you on the flip side.

P.S.  If you’re new here, feel free to take a look around while I’m out.  🙂